Rain Rain & More Rain: Historic Flooding Across South Florida
By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper
April 20, 2023
I am hopeful that since last week many of our readers have been getting back to normal. To those that have lost homes and property my prayers are with you. Our staff has been working around the clock to help our residents and the City recover. I want to extend my gratitude to City Manager Dr. Earle, Director of Public Works Jeff Odoms, Chief Michel Michel, the entire Hallandale Beach Police Department, BSO and our entire City Staff who have worked during this storm. I also want to thank the many residents who took it upon themselves to chip in and help. Many helped their neighbors and many also helped clear drains of debris and clean up.
There is plenty to cover and many news outlets have done a great job trying to explain what took place in terms of meteorology. I particularly enjoyed Suzannah Bryan of the Sun Sentinel who wrote about our drainage woes. I encourage readers to look it up online. I will be writing about this event in relation to our City in my next two articles.
Wednesday the calls and emails started. As the day went on we knew that something was different with the rain. By 10:00 p.m. I was asking Dr. Earle why a State Of Emergency was not being called. Thursday morning, I asked again if we could declare one. At that time, it was discussed the confusion created by the Governors new Legislation due to COVID-19 handcuffing Local Governments for declaring Emergency. It turned out that Broward County was caught off guard. The County Administrator was out of the country on business. The Assistant Administrator was at a conference and communication slowed. By Thursday, the State and County finally declared a State Of Emergency. Without it people simply were going about their busy lives while the disaster played out.
I have lived in South Florida full time for over 31 years. My first experience with heavy rain was the September after Hurricane Andrew. It had rained all night long. Coming from the Northeast I was getting genuinely concerned as that water was halfway up our front yard. I called my new neighbor and asked if school was going to be canceled. I joked, “Is this a Florida Snow Day?” By 8:00 a.m. the school had been closed.
That afternoon her husband told me about the rains he had seen growing up in Hollywood as a young child. He remembered the biggest was when the area flooded all of the way to Federal Highway. That rain he said was something and quite scary. We sadly all know now that feeling.
The last heavy rain in 2009 set me in motion. Like many of the calls received last week. There was what the meteorologist called a microburst. I forget the exact amount of rain. Once again 14th, 12th and 10th Avenues between East Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Shores Boulevard had almost three feet of water in some areas. I vividly remember walking down 14th speaking with the County Administrator and then Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz saying, “We really need your help. Not just with FEMA but with the Infrastructure."
The City did have a project in our 5 year plan to replace the drains that were connected to the Intracoastal on Desoto Park. The systems servicing that area at the time were gravity drains. With Sea Level Rise and tides this system virtually stops. In some cases, if the valve at the outlets stick they back up into the streets. Either way we had to do something different. The County put in place a requirement to put Stormwater down into the Aquifer.
It was vital to protect our area. We worked with our Congresswoman and lobbied FEMA for originally $10 Million Dollars to pay for this massive undertaking. The residents that lived through the dirt and mess for almost 2 years know all so well how impactful these projects are with their day to day lives. That project expanded into a $20 Million Grant plus Millions of Dollars of Local match to install pumps in the Northeast and Southwest Quadrants.
The Northeast Project did not go all of the way to Federal Highway or Atlantic Boulevard. There has always been a goal to do Phase 2. Due to different changes in the Commission and Administrative Instability, no large project was completed. We are now implementing many Infrastructure Projects. Phase 2 has not been added as of this date since we needed to focus on our Water Supply and Water Breaks. Ironically, we were approached by the City of Hollywood as they are looking at improving the Moffett Street Pumping System, more on that later.
Before going into engineering and expectations I need to address the bigger elephant in the room. These projects are extremely expensive. For example, when we set out to build 14th Avenue the Twenty Million Dollar Price Tag was one fifth of the Annual Budget. If it was not for the other Government Agencies stepping up the cost burden would have been solely on the back of our taxpayers. Even with the outside help we needed to increase Fees for Water and Sewer. Not one of us likes to pay Taxes and Fees but they are what pays for our City Operations and our Infrastructure.
The next issue is expectations and how big do you build? It is the job for the Engineers to perform Testing and Calculations. This Evaluation provides the costs of various levels of Pumping. The Large Pumps on 14th Avenue can pump football field size pools of water. This does not mean they can address every level of rain event. This last event was by some calculations an inch a minute. I am sure it no longer depends on the time of day.
Join us next week for part two.
As always, I am available for your questions, concerns and ideas to help make our City a better place. Please feel free to reach out to me at my office at: (954) 457-1318. On my Cell/Text at: (954) 632-5700. Or Email me at: email@example.com.